Purpose. John makes one thing clear in John 20:30, 31 – “these (things) are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ; and that believing ye may have life in his name.” John sought to lead men to eternal life by first convincing them of His deity, the miracles were actually recorded as “signs” to confirm His deity, that He was Jehovah God, the incarnate Word made flesh. John called Jesus the bread of life, the light of the world, the good shepherd, the way the truth and the life, the true vine, all clearly pointing to the deity of Jesus. In fact, John points to everything in His life and teachings as a sign that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the Eternal Word of God who “became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1: 14).
John Compared to the Other Gospel Accounts. The “Synoptic Gospels” – Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have their unique perspective of the life of Jesus Christ, as well as John’s approach. John is always emphasizing the deity of Jesus as well as His divine miracles. John also gives us a bit more information about Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem, where Matthew, Mark, and Luke focus more on His Galilean ministry. There is also a difference regarding the chronology of the last week (Passion Week) of Christ’s life. It is important to note that the Gospel accounts do not necessarily place their focus on chronology and orderly biography of the ministry of Jesus with names, places, and dates, but rather a full perspective of their unique portrayal of Jesus Christ. I said this to debunk the nay-sayers and the ones who say the Bible contradicts itself!
Authorship. The author of the Gospel of John is identified in John 21:20 as “The disciple whom Jesus loved” who leaned on Jesus’ breast. It is clear that John was that disciple and he did not wish to use his own name directly as the author, possibly for reasons of humility. Early church historical writings from early second century AD recognize the Gospel of John as a sacred book. Theophilus of Antioch (170 AD) was the first to write the name John as the author. Shortly after this Irenaeus identified John as the disciple who had leaned on Jesus’ breast. This is especially important because Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who had known the man John personally. Clement of Alexandria mentions John as having composed a “spiritual gospel.”
Critics of John as the Author. There is a statement that was made by Papias that there were actually two men named John in Ephesus at the same time, and John the Apostle was referred to as “John the Elder”. Many opponents of the apostle John’s authorship give credit to the other John as the writer of the fourth Gospel. Although the answer cannot be positively determined by history, tradition and internal evidence definitely point to John the apostle as the author.
Date. It is worthy to consider the words of the most famous archaeologist of all time that according to archaeological evidence there is “no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80.” Most scholars conclude that the book of John was written around 85 or 90 AD probably before the exile to Patmos. It is also important to consider John 5:2 when it mentions “Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep [market] a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.” This verse would indicate that this existed at the current time that the Gospel of John was written. This would place the written work before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. There is also no evidence as to whether John wrote the Gospel before or after his return to Ephesus from the Island of Patmos.
The Man John. John’s book attributes the work to “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This says a lot about the man John, and the fact that Jesus left his mother Mary in John’s care, having spoken the words from the cross, is very significant. Another indicator of John’s character is found in the book of 1 John, he continually talks about love, loving one another, and that God is love, etc. It is also safe to say that John was a Jew, this can be clearly seen by his accuracy about Jewish customs, the Jewish way of thinking, and by his quotations from the Hebrew Old Testament. He knew the topography of the land of Israel from a Jewish perspective quite well. It is easy to see in his writings that he was a close disciple of Jesus, an eyewitness of the events surrounding Jesus’ ministry. One can determine by process of elimination, that the author is not just any John but John the apostle, the son of Zebedee, who is prominently mentioned in the Gospel accounts.
John and Church History. Church tradition records that John came to Ephesus after Paul’s work was finished there. Later, during the reign of Emperor Domitian, he was banished to the Island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. Shortly thereafter he was released and returned to the city of Ephesus.
Archaeology. The Rylands Papyrus Fragment was discovered in 1920 in Egypt containing a few verses from John 18 dating back to about 120-135 AD.
Outline of the Book of John
The Word of God – Chapter 1:1-51
His Public Ministry – Chapters 2:1-12:50
His Private Ministry – Chapters 13:1-17:26
His Death and Resurrection – Chapters 18:1-20:31
John’s Conclusion – Chapter 21:1-25
The Name Jesus In Ancient Hebrew Text
“Yeshua” in First Century Hebrew Text. This is how the name “Jesus” would have been written in ancient Hebrew documents. The four letters or consonants from right to left are Yod, Shin, Vav, Ayin (Y, SH, OO, A). Jesus is the Greek name for the Hebrew name Joshua or Y’shua which means “The LORD or Yahweh is Salvation”.
The Fourth Gospel describes the mystery of the identity of Jesus. The Gospel According to John develops a Christology—an explanation of Christ’s nature and origin—while leaving out much of the familiar material that runs through the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, including Jesus’s short aphorisms and parables, references to Jesus’s background, and proclamations about the kingdom of God. Whereas Mark’s Gospel brings us the texture of first-century Palestine with a vivid, concrete, and earthy Jesus, John’s Gospel is filled with long discourses describing Jesus’s divinity. John takes us behind Jesus’s ministry, where we get a glimpse of what it means to believe in Jesus as the flesh of the eternal and living God, as the source of light and life, and for a believer to be a “Son of God.” Though John’s narrative diverges from the synoptic Gospels, it is indeed a Gospel or a telling of good news. It includes the basics of Jesus’s ministry—his preaching, miracles, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection
John can be divided thematically into halves, preceded by a prologue and followed by an epilogue. The prologue is a poetic introduction that presents the outline of the narrative and the essence of John’s theology. The first half of the Gospel can be characterized as a “Book of Signs.” It tells of Jesus’s ministry, focusing on seven major miracles worked by Jesus and the meaning and significance of those miracles. The second half of John has been called the “Book of Glory.” In it, the narrative moves toward Jesus’s glorification through crucifixion and resurrection. Finally, the book ends with an epilogue, which tells of Jesus’s appearance to the disciples after his resurrection.
The Gospel of John begins with a poetic hymn that tells the story of Jesus’s origin, mission, and function. John says that Jesus is the incarnated Word of God, bringing “grace and truth,” replacing the law given by Moses, and making God is known in the world (1:17). The narrative opens with John the Baptist identifying himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy; he will prepare the way for the Lord. Indeed, when he meets Jesus, John testifies, “He is the Son of God” (1:34). The next day, hearing John’s testimony, two disciples, including Andrew, begin to follow Jesus. Andrew brings his brother Simon to Jesus, who now accumulates several other followers as well. On the third day after Jesus’s baptism, Jesus and his disciples attend a wedding at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus works a miracle, transforming water into wine. As Passover approaches, Jesus travels to Jerusalem, where he drives the money changers from the temple, charging them to “stop making my Father’s house a marketplace” (2:16). A Pharisee named Nicodemus assumes that Jesus has come from God as a teacher, and Jesus tells him, in solemn, semi-poetic lines, that he has been “born from above” (3:3) and that God has given “his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish” (3:16). Jesus leaves Jerusalem and begins to baptize people in Judea. John the Baptist has continued his baptizing, and someone informs him that Jesus too has begun to baptize but not with water, assuming that John would be angry at the competition. The Baptist rejoices at the news, knowing that Jesus, as the Son of God, is the greater of the two and that Jesus is the fulfillment of John’s prophecy.
Jesus travels to Samaria, where he speaks in metaphors and figures of speech with a Samaritan woman and with his disciples. They do not always understand his metaphors and take Jesus literally when he tells the woman that he has “living water” (4:10) and when he tells his disciples that “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (4:32). Eventually, the woman understands Jesus. Impressed by his knowledge of her past and by his message, she tells the other Samaritans that he is the Christ, meaning that he is the Messiah prophesied in Jewish scriptures. The Samaritans profess belief in him. Returning to Cana in Galilee, Jesus cures a boy who is at death’s door. In Jerusalem once again for a festival, Jesus cures a sick man at the pool of Bethzatha and orders him to pick up his sleeping mat and walk around. As it is the Sabbath when observant Jews do not carry objects outdoors, the Jews become angry with Jesus, and their anger only increases when Jesus explains that God is his father. Jesus delivers a long discourse, in which he announces that his words bring eternal life, and that rejection of Jesus in favor of the traditional laws is foolish since Jesus represents the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.